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GOP can't take its eyes off Benghazi

A government-shutdown deadline is 12 days away, and Congress also needs to tackle a debt-ceiling increase, the farm bill, immigration, and a series of other
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.)
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

A government-shutdown deadline is 12 days away, and Congress also needs to tackle a debt-ceiling increase, the farm bill, immigration, and a series of other pending nominations and pieces of legislation. Naturally, then, House Republicans remain preoccupied with Benghazi questions that have already been answered.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) slammed the State Department Wednesday for not firing anyone in relation to the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya."We're here today because, at the end of the day, nobody was held accountable," Royce told Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary of State for management. "Reassignment just doesn't cut it in terms of addressing that issue."

Kennedy tried to explain that four State Department officials were already relieved of their senior positions, but Republicans' enduring outrage remained unaffected.

Indeed, GOP lawmakers will be able to keep their focus on Benghazi -- and presumably send out more fundraising letters about how they're "keeping the 'scandal' alive" -- because this was one of only three Benghazi hearings House Republicans have scheduled this week.

Imagine what would be possible if GOP lawmakers invested a small fraction of these energies in actual governing.

Since that's apparently not going to happen, let's also note that the House Oversight Committee has finally released the full transcripts of the testimony lawmakers heard from Ambassador Thomas Pickering (pdf) and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen (pdf).

And why is that important? I'm glad you asked.

Soon after the attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Pickering and Mullen co-chaired an independent Accountability Review Board to scrutinize what transpired in great detail. When the House Oversight Committee launched a series of hearings, both men told Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) they'd be happy to answer lawmakers' questions.

That proved to be difficult. Issa claimed that they officials "refused to come before our committee," but the congressman was lying. Issa eventually said Pickering and Mullen could testify, but only in secret, behind closed doors, so the public couldn't hear their remarks.

Sure, Issa held a variety of public hearings in the hopes of generating headlines, but when it came time to hear from the two officials who oversaw an independent investigation -- officials with experience in the Reagan and Bush administrations -- the California Republican was afraid to let Americans hear from them. I'll leave it to you to speculate why.

But in time, Pickering and Mullen did appear, and after months of delays from Issa, their testimony is now available for public review. Why did the committee chairman delay the release of the transcripts for months? Probably because Pickering and Mullen reject and thoroughly discredit every wild-eyed theory Issa and his fellow Republicans continue to push in the hopes of creating a political controversy where one does not exist.

I realize this may seem like a dog-bites-man story -- "credible, independent voices disprove right-wing conspiracy theories" isn't front-page news -- but I think it's fair to say that if Pickering and Mullen had said anything to bolster the Republican agenda, Issa would have released the transcripts a long time ago, and it would have been a huge story.

The political media establishment shouldn't be in the habit of saying the only developments that are newsworthy are the ones that reaffirm preferred GOP narratives.